November is National Family Caregiver Awareness Month. In honor of this annual celebration let us share with you six important tips every family caregiver should know.
1. Take Care of Your Own Health. One of the biggest challenges facing family caregivers is taking care of themselves. The demands of caring for a dependent loved one can be so strenuous that caregivers often end up putting his or her loved one’s needs before their own, and as a result, suffer from burnout, exhaustion, and poor mental and physical health. The tragedy is that this hurts both the caregiver and the dependent loved one.
2. Seek Support. Everybody needs help, sometimes. It is particularly important for family caregivers to proactively seek support. Whether planning respite breaks to keep a healthy life-caregiving balance or seeking guidance from an online care community, taking the initiative to ask for help can only lead to better outcomes.
3. Organize Medical Information. Family caregivers should create and maintain a comprehensive file pertaining to the dependent loved one’s needs. Make sure it is up-to-date and includes important documents regarding medical history, medications, and insurance.
4. Communicate Effectively with Doctors. Successful communication with a dependent loved one’s doctor requires preparation and intent. Make a list of your concerns in advance. At the appointment, speak up, listen, and ask follow-up questions. Taking notes may also help you remember important information.
5. Use Technology to Your Advantage. It might take some getting used to, but technology can vastly improve a family caregiver’s ability to manage his or her care responsibilities. For example, a GPS app on your smartphone could help keep track of an elder loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease. Other applications could help organize medications, medical appointments, and daily tasks.
6. Make Sure Legal Documents Are in Order. Family caregivers do not just help with bathing, meal prep, and doctor’s appointments, they are often in the position of managing a loved one’s finances and legal affairs. Securing up-to-date legal documents, like a durable power of attorney, is the foundation for handling these critical areas. Other important documents might relate to wills and trusts, or the ability to pay bills, navigate insurance policies and secure government benefits.
If you or someone you know is a family caregiver in need of legal documents, or updating them, do not wait to contact an experienced estate planning attorney for guidance.